Cincinnati-based guitar & bass duo, Brad Myers & Michael Sharfe, respectively, marry optimism and melodicism within the tones of their album Sanguinaria (Hopefulsongs).
The titular plant – also known as bloodroot – serves as symbol, metaphor, compound word, and more for the Cincinnati-based duo of guitarist Brad Myers and bassist Michael Sharfe. Sanguinaria canadensis’ carmine-colored sap is a parallel to the music-enriched blood running through the veins of these men, the plant has the ability to produce a double flower that speaks to this particular duo design, and the sanguine-aria word melding – linking optimism and melodicism – is perfectly reflective of the tone of these recordings. A more apt linguistic marriage of nature’s wonders and musical expression doesn’t and couldn’t exist for this pair.
Sensitivity reigns supreme here, as Myers and Sharfe use their easy rapport to paint a variety of moods and styles with nary an aggressive agenda in sight. But that’s not to say these songs lack passion. In fact, there’s a radiant glow to much of this material, due in large part to the musical concord between all parties. A unity of expression and purpose manages to yield plenty of energy, but it all registers at low and controlled impact.
This duo favors felicitous covers on this date, with eight inspired choices in the mix. The highlight list includes a cheery take on Gerry Mulligan’s “Line For Lyons,” offering a trading of foreground and background roles; a memorable trip through Paul Bollenback’s gorgeously serene, previously unrecorded “A Feeling Inspired By Maria”; a low-key, Latin-tinged arrangement of Vince Guaraldi’s “Great Pumpkin Waltz”; a solo bass feature for Sharfe on Keith Jarrett’s bucolic “Country”; and an album-capping performance of Dave Brubeck’s “In Your Own Sweet Way,” benefitting greatly from the addition of drummer Tom Buckley and the resultant tripartite symbiosis.
Myers’ pen fills out the playlist, adding four originals that operate in different realms yet complement one another. The title track is a sunny and soulful concoction graced by Dan Karlsberg’s melodica and built with Baroque and Brazilian flavors, “In From Somewhere” is a swinging reflection on Johnny Green’s “Out Of Nowhere” enlivened by Dan Dorff Jr.’s dancing ride cymbal, the Pat Metheny-influenced “Norm’s Ridge” is an excitable ride that finds Sharfe moving to fretless electric bass, and “Bentley’s Blues” is a conversational twelve-bar blues born at the dawn of this partnership. Those pieces stand tall as individual statements, each makes for good company for the others, and all sit well next to the covers. Myers and Sharfe clearly know how to pick them, put them together, and play them. (Dan Bilawsky)